These summits make your heart race and your mind wander.
Mt. Rainier 14,410 feet >A northwest classic with a broad cap of snowfields and glaciers. Parts of the lower mountain are still in rehab from fall 2006 storms, but the main summit route via the Muir Snowfield is open for business (best time: May to October).
Mt. Marcy 5,344 feet Thousands of hikers attempt this High Peaks Wilderness climb every year, drawn by the challenge of a 14-mile round-trip (via the Van Hoevenberg Trail) and views of 40-plus ‘Dack peaks. Want to hike it in winter?
Grand Teton 13,770 feet The tallest of the three Tetons, the Grand is an educational must for any aspiring mountaineer. Get a guide (exumguides.com) to take you up Upper Exum Ridge–and teach you rope skills along the way.
Mt. Whitney 14,505 feet The Lower 48’s high point, this granite monolith towers above Death Valley. The ever-popular Whitney Trail from Lone Pine, CA, gains 6,145 feet in 11 miles
Katahdin 5,267 feet This horseshoe-shaped peak is the northern terminus of the AT, but also a great scramble in its own right: The infamous Knife Edge route has plenty of dazzling exposure. Check your fear of heights at the trailhead.
Longs Peak 14,259 feet Boulder Field. Keyhole. Homestretch. The highest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park takes 7 miles and 4,000 vertical feet to scale, with some Class 3 moves in spots.
Mt. Washington 6,288 feet Wrapped in ironies as much as clouds, this windy New England summit boasts challenging trails, “the worst weather in the world” (it can change minute by minute), and a paved road to the top.
Clingmans Dome 6,643 feet The AT crests this tallest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, following a long ridge 8 miles from Newfound Gap to a spruce-fir forested summit.